Thu, Dec 08, 2005 - Page 7 News List

US Congress set to include cruelty ban with defense bill

AP , WASHINGTON

A ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign terror suspects probably will be included in a defense bill being negotiated in Congress, a crucial Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Representative Duncan Hunter, who is leading negotiations to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the measure, said that if the ban or another provision limiting interrogation techniques US troops can use are changed, they won't be drastically watered down.

"Nobody wants to do that," Hunter, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said in an interview.

"I expect a good outcome for all parties," he said.

The White House opposes the provisions and has threatened to veto any bill containing them. But US President George W. Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley has been negotiating with the chief sponsor, Senator John McCain, to find a compromise that would satisfy objections to the legislation from the Bush administration.

Hadley and McCain spoke again on Tuesday, the same day Hunter met with Representative Ike Skelton, the top Democrat on his committee, and their counterparts on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- Senators John Warner and Carl Levin -- to start sorting out differences between versions of the bill.

The most contentious area concerns McCain's provisions that would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment and punishment of foreigners in US custody and require US troops to follow interrogation procedures prescribed in the Army Field Manual.

Warner, Levin and Skelton back McCain's provisions, while Hunter has questioned the need for them. Hunter has argued that the US already has a law that prohibits torture.

But after the meeting on Tuesday, Hunter said those provisions -- and less-controversial legislation by Senator Lindsey Graham about prosecuting detainees at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- likely will make it into the final bill "largely, if not completely, intact."

Hunter said he also believed a House provision would be included, saying that US troops who are training Iraqi security forces should emphasize appropriate and humane treatment of prisoners.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hunter told reporters that he expected the McCain and Graham provisions to be "very strongly manifested" in the final bill.

He is floating a proposal for House-Senate negotiators to consider that includes parts of the McCain and Graham provisions as well as the House provision on Iraqi training. But Hunter and aides declined to discuss exactly what the proposal contains and what it excludes.

House Republican leaders, who are taking their cues from the White House, were not involved in crafting the proposal, raising doubts about whether it will be adopted.

Warner suggested he won't accept without getting McCain's blessing anything short of the detainee provisions as the Senate passed them.

"I started with McCain, I will finish with McCain, and as he said, there is no deal yet," Warner said in a statement.

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